In part one of this article, I led out with statistics regarding the number of fights that have been promoted by the UFC since the merger. These show a lower number of fights being promoted at 135 and 145 so far, and the glaring lack of TV coverage for these divisions. So far things don't look good, but it is still early.
In part 2, I will cover the five commandments and flesh out some of my other ideas regarding how 135/145 are being promoted. I'll also examine how Versus has been affected, how established UFC 155 guys dropping will affect things, TUF 14, and the facebook effect. And I'm going to look at that Brittney Palmer picture. A lot.
So let's look at the commandments in order, and see how they've played out so far.
1. Two more divisions means more title fights - Well, there haven't been any title fights yet. Before you get mad at me for saying that, I realize it's only been just over three months, and Aldo vs. Hominick is currently scheduled to co-main UFC 129 in Toronto. Jose Aldo was scheduled for UFC 125, but an injury pushed that back. Current UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz defended his title successfully on the last WEC card in December and likely wouldn't have been scheduled until April anyway. Unfortunately though, he had surgery on his hand so it'll probably be a while longer than that, likely around July at the earliest. This leaves the conundrum of TUF 14 - does the UFC go with Urijah Faber/Dominick Cruz and put off a title defense until probably December? That would mean zero bantamweight title fights in the entire first year it was in the promotion. For now, while injuries are obviously beyond the UFC's control, it's taking longer than the UFC would have liked to monetize the two new titles for sure. No "ball dropping", just circumstance.
2. Sponsors were more likely to get on board with guys now in the UFC, which benefits the fighters - I won't dispute this as a fact. The problem is in execution. When the WEC was still around, a lot of these guys were on TV regularly. Granted, it was on Versus. The last three events averaged 560k viewers or so (for perspective's sake, the last 18 measured events averaged about 600k), and WEC 48 on PPV drew a reported 175k buys. Sponsors are more likely to get behind a fighter that's on TV regularly as opposed to an undercard fighter. That's just good business. Of course, the UFC brand name itself is enough to get these guys some more sponsorship money than they did in the WEC regardless of whether their fight is televised or not. But...what happens when 90% of these guys lose their spot on TV?
I've already laid out the relative rarity of seeing these guys on TV so far. The ones that have made it are clearly making more sponsorship money just because of the fancy new letters (UFC), but how long does it take before sponsors start noticing the actual numbers? The recent UFC show on Versus drew under 100k more viewers (681k average) than WEC 53 did on the same channel (615k average), and just 80k more than the WEC averaged over the last three years. The last prelims on Ion did around the same number. They're still doing excellent numbers on Spike, which likely led to Chad Mendes making that Money. Cool. But with the UFC increasingly spreading their coverage across multiple platforms, combined with their reluctance in getting the little guys on ANY platform at all, are these fighters really going to be rolling in sponsorship dough like people expected them to? Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber will, sure. Other then them and the champs though? And speaking of platforms, the new one isn't even beneficial in terms of sponsorship money.
While facebook fights are great for fans that want to see more fights, most sponsors don't view streamed fights any differently than they do untelevised fights. The low number of viewers and the platform likely isn't worth the extra expense for most of them. For example, Demetrious Johnson likely wasn't making any extra money because his fight with Kid Yamamoto was streamed on facebook that day. He certainly gained something from the exposure, which might matter monetarily down the road. But were sponsors coming out of the woodwork to advertise on his shorts because his fight was being streamed on the internet? No. And since most of these guys aren't getting on TV anyway, even the alternative to TV isn't making them extra cash. Sad but true.
After the jump (to HKL): The rest of the issues are addressed, I come to a somewhat surprising conclusion (at least to me), and you can vote on what you think of all this stuff. Get going now. Click that link. Stop stalling. Why are you still reading this?